Setting up a FreeNAS Box Part 1: The Install

FreeNAS is a task specific operating system designed to be used in Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices. It’s built using FreeBSD as the underlying OS which lets it have some fairly low power hardware requirements. For example the Dell I used is an old Pentium 4 1.7 GHz with 512 MB of RAM and it runs like a charm, granted I don’t put a lot of demand on the box in the way of concurrent transfers or running processes. It’s worth mentioning that the recommended way to install FreeNAS is to install to, and boot from a USB thumb drive. This is the recommended method so it can save as much hard drive space for data storage, but even though it looked like I could boot from the thumb drive like a hard drive in the BIOS I had trouble getting it to boot so I installed the OS to the 160 GB hard drive with partitions for the OS and data. Here’s the parts list with some specifics after the jump.

Parts List:

  1. Old Dell Dimension 4400 – bought at university surplus sale, $5
  2. Various old IDE hard drives I had sitting around – two ~20 GB; one 160 GB, probably cost me something at some point…
  3. USB thumb drive – “borrowed” from family, free

I followed the standard install guides around the interwebs, going straight to the horses mouth at (here) is a good option. I’ll do some quick steps here for install and some of the setup, but let me tell you what the setup looks like. I mentioned that I have the 160 GB drive setup as the boot drive with OS and data partitions, the OS is pretty small so there’s lots of data space. I have the two smaller drives setup in a RAID 1 configuration using the software RAID in FreeBSD.

  • First setup the computer to boot from a CD drive. There are some ways that you can install FreeNAS without needing a CD but it’s easier to go ahead and install from a CD.
  • Download the liveCD that matches the system you are installing on and burn that onto a CD. Pop that into the computer and boot up the FreeNAS CD. If you are installing to a USB drive don’t plug it in yet, it will write the config file to the USB and will cause errors on the install because the disk is in use.
  • Wait until the console setup menu comes on screen (if you want to install to USB you can put it in now) and select option 9 to install to disk
"Console setup"
1 ) Assign Interface
2 ) Set LAN IP address
3 ) Reset WebGUI password
4 ) Reset to factory defaults
5 ) Ping host
6 ) Shell
7 ) Reboot system
8 ) Shutdown system
9 ) Install/Upgrade to hard drive/flash device, etc.
  • This will bring up the following install menu, the first 3 are going to be of most interest to us right now.
1 ) Install 'embedded' OS on HDD/Flash/USB
2 ) Install 'embedded' OS on HDD/Flash/USB + DATA + SWAP partition
3 ) Install 'full' OS on HDD + DATA + SWAP partition
4 ) upgrade 'embedded' OS from CDROM
5 ) Upgarde 'full' OS from CDROM
6 ) Upgrade and convert 'full' OS to 'embedded'
  • After selecting one of the install options you’ll get some info about what it’s going to do. In any of the Install options it should ask you to select the source location and the install location. Once the installation is complete go back to the main menu (press ESC), remove the CD and select option 7 to reboot the computer. Once the computer reboots make sure that Option 9 (Install OS) doesn’t show up, if it does you probably didn’t take out the installation medium before rebooting.
  • Select option 1 to assign the network interface you will use. Most of the time if there is just one FreeNAS will use that by default but this makes sure that the OS uses the right interface.
  • Once you’re back to the main menu, select option 2 to assign the IP address for the LAN. Most of the time you will use DHCP to automatically get the IP address from your router. Be sure to take note of this IP address so we can do the setup in part 2.
  • Back at the main menu select option 5 and try to ping another device on your network to make sure you are connected (optional).

Now you have FreeNAS installed, granted it’s not very useful in it’s current state. We’ll cover the basic setup in Part 2 and start adding some features that you can actually use.

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